On Fire: Puzzling personnel moves in latest draw
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — They’re not proud of it, but the Chicago Fire broke a record Thursday night, setting the all-time MLS mark for draws in a season with their 15th tie of the year.
Chicago outplayed D.C. United in the teams’ 1-1 draw and likely should’ve won the match, but some poor finishing and a controversial call cost them, allowing former Fire forward Josh Wolff to cancel out Sebastián Grazzini’s 59th-minute opener in the 73rd minute.
Here are three other storylines from the match:
New midfielder Grazzini had another good game Thursday, playing a very active role in the midfield and volleying a close-range shot home for his second goal in as many games. The Argentine playmaker popped up all over the field against DC, consistently getting himself on the ball and making good passes and runs to set up teammates and open up space.
Considering his solid play, it was a bit of a surprise that interim head coach Frank Klopas decided to take Grazzini out in the 73rd minute. Klopas said after the match that Grazzini was tired and asked out.
“I wanted to push him more today but he couldn’t go,” Klopas said. “He told me he needed to come out.”
Interestingly, the summer signing told a different story, telling reporters that he and Klopas had agreed to take him out in order to keep him fresh for the Fire’s game against Toronto FC on Sunday.
“The coach told me he would take me out so I’ll be available for the next match [against Toronto FC on Sunday],” Grazzini said. “Game after game I'm feeling better. I'm getting back in rhythm and I think I did better tonight, and the coach had told me he would take me out so I'll be available for the next match."
Klopas explains other substitutions
Pulling off Grazzini wasn’t Klopas’s only puzzling substitution on Thursday night. The interim head coach made two other head-scratching changes, choosing to leave three defensive-minded midfielders on the field and sub off attackers Patrick Nyarko and Marco Pappa when he brought on forwards Orr Barouch and Diego Chaves in the 86th minute.
Klopas was asked after the match why he took off Pappa and Nyarko instead of any of the more defensive-minded midfielders Logan Pause, Pável Pardo or Daniel Paladini.
“Because the offensive players worked their butts off,” he said. “They were tired and we still needed to be a little bit solid in the back and in the midfield and Pavel provides a lot of stability in the back and he’s a very experienced player. Sometimes when you’re going 85 minutes and your forwards haven’t scored you have other guys that need to be in there.
“Maybe I should have brought them in quicker, but those guys … made a lot of sprints and in the end they looked tired,” he added. “And it’s still a little bit of risk because we brought Orr and Chaves and basically pushed three up top to win the game. We needed to win the game and we pushed.”
Toronto up next
The Fire don’t have a long time to dwell on Thursday’s disappointing tie, as they’ll face surging Toronto FC at home on Sunday.
TFC will be taking some serious momentum into Sunday’s match, having gone 4-0-2 in their last six matches across all competitions, a streak that includes Thursday’s 2-1 CONCACAF Champions League group stage win at Panamanian club Tauro FC.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.